Mogwai at The Knitting Factory, September 21
The White Stripes with Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Greek Theatre, September 22
1. All of Mogwai's songs sound the same: chiming arpeggios slowly building in intensity until all three guitarists start hammering away at the strings, creating a wall of grinding, high-viscosity noise. They're fucking great at what they do, so we'll forgive the rut they seem to be stuck in. And, as far as I'm concerned, their existence would be worthwhile if only for perennial show-closer, the half-hour-long "My Father, My King," a Mogwaied-up version of an ancient Jewish hymn. It's obvious that this is a sacred song, because it achieves the epic, mystic grandeur that the rest of Mogwai's ouevre reaches for but can't quite grasp. There's something in the chords themselves that creates a receptive, trance-like state in the listener. Glorious.
2. The open-air Greek Theatre is totally not the right venue for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs--they're one of those bands that demand to be seen in a tiny club--but they gave it their best shot anyway. Karen O prowled out on stage on all fours, wearing a leopard-print thing that turned her into Sheena the Punk Rocker Queen of the Jungle. She didn't seem to know what to do with a stage that big, so she resorted to a lot of Jagger-style prancing. And though her screams had a tendency to get swallowed up in the night air, she offered enough evidence to support her current Rock Star of the Moment status.
3. At least until Jack and Meg White took the stage, and schooled everybody in Rock Stardom 101. The key, as the Beatles figured out long ago, is matching costumes; but once you've got that down, you still have to play. And The White Stripes can fucking play. They barely took a breath in the first twenty minutes of the show, Jack starting one song just as the last one was ending, sometimes not even bothering to finish a song--just doing a verse, then assaulting his guitar until it gave him the chord change he wanted, and launching right into something else. It was a full-scale attack on the guitar, the blues and the audience the likes of which I've never seen before. And all of you still rolling your eyes and making snarky little comments over Meg's supposed lack of drumming ability, you can shut up now: she held her own through all of Jack's swerves and u-turns. She even got her own spotlight, singing her Elephant showcase "In the Cold, Cold Night" to an adoring reaction. Jack works his ass off to be the rock god he is, but Meg barely has to lift a finger. (Two random observations: A) Jack Black was at the show, and I have to think that the presence of Jacks Black and White in the same place has some cosmic significance. B) Across the aisle from me were three kids, not over ten years old, wearing coordinated red-and-white outfits, who screamed and leaped around like monkeys on crack for every song. Seeing these kids jump up and down and pump their fists for Son House's "Death Letter" gave me great hope for the future.)